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Matt Sheehan
Matt Sheehan
Matt holds an MSc in Geography and GIS. He has been working with clients solving problems with GIS for over 17 years. Matt founded WebMapSolutions whose mission is to put innovative, intuitive GIS driven applications into the hands of new and existing users.

Mobile ArcGIS Choices: Native, Hybrid or Web

September 6th, 2016 by Matt Sheehan

Mobile adoption in the GIS world has taken place slower than many would have expected. The GIS landscape is changing so rapidly, mobile was just one more ball to juggle. But things have begun to change. We are now in a world of multiple devices. And not just smartphones and tablets, also wearable’s, smart TVs etc. There is increasing demand to have access to GIS anywhere, on any device.

Today there are three mobile ArcGIS choices: native, hybrid or web. Each has its own own advantages and disadvantages. If you are looking to have a mobile ArcGIS app developed the right approach need be made on a case per case basis. In this article we will discuss these 3 options; the pros and cons.

Mobile ArcGIS Choices: Native, Hybrid or Web

1. Native ArcGIS Mobile Apps

Native ArcGIS mobile apps are developed specifically for one platform. They are written in the native language of that platform. So Objective-C for Apple (iOS) devices, Java for Android, .NET for Windows. Functionality, user experience and performance are key advantages of native ArcGIS apps. But they are more complex and expensive to build and are not cross-platform compatible. A typical use case for a native ArcGIS mobile app would be: “We will only ever use iPads in our organization, and we are working with large data-sets. Performance is key”.

2. Hybrid ArcGIS Mobile Apps

Hybrid ArcGIS mobile apps are ‘web apps wrapped in a native shell’. Translated that means they are web apps which can ‘disguise’ themselves as native. It does not mean that they are native, but they do share some of the advantages of both native and web. They are cross-platform, and have one code base. Cordova is a popular hybrid technology. It takes a mobile web app built with HTML5, Javascript and CSS, and converts it to an iOS, Android or Windows app. A typical use case for a hybrid ArcGIS mobile app would be: “We want to avoid the cost of building multiple versions of the same mobile ArcGIS app for different platforms, but want to distribute the app in the app stores”.

3. Web ArcGIS Mobile Apps

Web ArcGIS mobile apps are built with HTML5, Javascript and CSS. They are cross-platform and cross-device, and the most flexible of the mobile options discussed here. They also require the least amount of investment of the three. As web technology improves advanced functionality can now be included in a mobile ArcGIS web app including 3-D and offline. ArcGIS web apps cannot be distributed in app stores. A typical use case for an ArcGIS mobile web app would be: “We want maximum flexibility. Our staff will be using many different mobile devices. Cost is very important. Extending the mobile app over time with additional custom functionality will be required”.

The diagram below summarizes each approach:

As an ArcGIS mobile development company, we spend increasingly more of our time developing mobile ArcGIS web apps. We find the flexibility, lower cost and advanced features such as offline ArcGIS are very compelling.

Feel free to contact us on 801-733-0723 if you have questions.

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Categories: ArcGIS Online, cloud GIS, Mobile ArcGIS, Mobile GIS, Web and mobile GIS

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